Former Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter has a new job at the prestigious Denver law firm of Hogan and Hartson. The managing partner of the firm is Tom Strickland, former U.S. Attorney, Senate candidate, and partner at the inimitable political powerhouse Brownstein, Hyatt & Farber.

But how long will he stay in private practice? In mid-spring, Ritter says he will make up his mind about running for Colorado Governor in 2006. Another partner in the Hogan firm, former Congressman Scott McInnis, is also considering a run…on the Republican side.

What will be Ritter’s deciding factor? Street talk has it that his decision will rest on whether Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper decides to run — Hickenlooper is a Democrat,and “conventional wisdom” has it that Ritter won’t enter the race against “the Hick.” Last month the word was that Ritter is unlikely to run if Colorado Congressman Mark Udall enters the race. That may cease to be a primary factor the longer Udall defers making a decision.

What could affect Hickenlooper’s decision? Maybe the May vote on the Justice Center. If voters reject his plan for the new jail complex on Colfax, it could be a sign lacks the support to win the race. And when will Mark Udall decide? He’s missed two self-imposed deadlines, but better not wait too much longer. Courtesy in such deferential matters can’t go on indefinitely.

The top three in my book are Ritter, Udall, and Hickenlooper. Colorado Pols has a continuously updated Governor’s line, complete with up and down arrows.